A case study from Legal Futures Associate on how one law firm is using its new technology infrastructure to prepare for the post-Legal Services Act world
The Will-U-Wait service launched earlier this year by Thursfields LLP is a very public example of the type of innovation that will help law firms thrive in a post-Legal Services Act landscape. The service enables clients to have individually tailored wills produced within an hour of the end of their first appointment. It is a premium service designed to meet urgent needs or help those who do not have time for multiple trips to their solicitors.
Tear back the covers of Will-U-Wait and you will find that it is enabled by new legal IT software in the form of SOS Connect from Solicitors Own Software, which Thursfields, with offices in Worcester, Stourport and Kidderminster, has rolled out across its workforce.
Unlike many firms that are only just beginning to realise the impact that alternative business structures may have on their businesses, Thursfields was very aware of the impending deregulation, but it was only one of the reasons that fuelled the firm’s revitalisation of IT, two or so years ago. A key driver was to increase the focus on client service now delivered to a higher standard through automation, standardisation and streamlined business processes.
Managing partner Nick O’Hara recalls: “Deregulation doesn’t mean that there isn’t any room for independents who can distinguish themselves on service, innovation and quality. The LSA offered a good opportunity to re-examine what we do and how we do it in terms of the business processes which support our operations. In particular we were looking for a new level of flexibility to turn us into an agile business able to respond quickly to market conditions and the needs of different practice areas.”
Historically, Thursfields operated under disparate and unconnected IT systems. In 2008, following a widespread evaluation of legal IT software suppliers, it opted for a single integrated practice and case management solution to take the firm forward.
A joint Thursfields’ and Solicitors Own Software implementation team brought in the major project on-time and on budget. A dramatic leap forward in automated processes and real-time, interactive working was achieved within the first six months of rolling out the system.
There have been a number of quick return on investment (ROI) wins especially from the many newly automated business processes; improved access and flow of information; accurate time recording; better business performance information and the introduction, of customer relationship management (CRM). But the longer-term ROI will be greatly enhanced because the people at Thursfields are so highly motivated to use the software extensively and take advantage of the innovative technology architecture for building their own workflows. Will-U-Wait is a good example – a highly competitive service for which people are prepared to pay a premium price. While the trend is towards fixed prices, and the prediction is that ABSs will drive down costs, Thursfields is proving that the right technology provides scope for innovation and value pricing.
Another key outcome from installing SOS Connect is the firm’s greater financial awareness, presented on-screen on a day-to-day basis. In today’s economic climate it is proving an essential tool to manage and monitor performance and be in a position to take timely decisions.
Case management is being steadily rolled out to departments such as wills & probate and conveyancing which benefit from automated processes and more will follow. Thursfields has appointed “super-users” who can use the scripting tools within SOS Connect to create workflows and fine-tune processes.
The new system also enables lawyers to connect with case matters and client information while on the move. The next stage is to make this information accessible to clients too, through a web portal. From a business perspective the CRM system is helping Thursfields to understand clients better and target marketing to their needs, with the overall goal to improve business and service delivery. The culmination of this automation and efficiency investment is better customer service.
“Overall there is a new financial awareness throughout the business,” says Nick O’Hara, “and a greater focus on putting the needs of clients first. But perhaps the most important benefit of our new system, is that we can innovate and bring new packages of service to the market quickly. Ultimately, our agility and high quality will keep us competitive.”